About 7 years ago, Rick and I took a trip to the Channel Islands. We were only able to go over for the day but loved it so much we vowed to come back and camp one day so we could have more time to explore. We were able to make this a reality and are happy to report the islands were just as magical as the first time.
It was a bit strange leaving the “luxuries” and conveniences of the camper behind, but after making our annual Cumberland Island trip for the last 3 years, we knew the drill when it came to island camping.
The kids loved the ferry ride over – we saw sea lions and the big surf made the boat ride feel like a roller coaster…Rick spent most of the trip hanging off the back, but he rallied quickly enough when we hit land.
We visited Santa Cruz, the largest of the 8 islands. In addition to housing unique species of plants and animals, and providing refuge to numerous marine animals, the Channel Islands have been home to the native Chumash people and various European immigrants who most recently used the islands for ranching.
We spent 4 days on the island exploring the trails. The scenery is very unique, the islands rise out of the sea from nothing, and the soft rolling hills are blanketed in long waving grass ornamented with clusters of wildflowers. It reminds me of places I went as a kid in the U.K.
If you chance to visit, our two favorite trails were Smugglers Cover and Scorpion Canyon. We were incredibly proud of Liam who hiked the 7.5 and 4.5 mile trails all by himself. Smugglers takes you across the island to a long rocky beach where we sat and watched huge turquoise waves crashing into the shore. We picked our way across the rocks to a tidal pool where brightly colored sea anemone and mussels were clinging to rocks. I half expected to see a mermaid perched on top of one of the craggy rocks protruding from the surf, belting out a tune from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
In addition to the magical scenery, a successful conservation effort has brought back the Island Fox – a subspecies of the grey fox found only on the Channel Islands. The foxes are now so common they were frequent visitors to our campsite, particularly around meal time. Lefty – the one-eyed fox and Frank, were always close at hand when food was present. Numerous times they scared me as I had my head in the “Fox Box” and came out to find their furry faces next to mine!
As with all the parks, camping in them gives you a different perspective that you can’t get through just a day trip. The Channel Islands are not heavily traveled, but you have the island completely to yourself at 4pm everyday when the last ferry leaves. After putting the kids to bed, Rick and I enjoyed evening strolls to the cove where we could watch the sun set and were usually treated to a sea lion or two frolicking in the surf while the pelicans cruised down over the cliffs above to skim the waves.
Island camping is truly magically and one of the few times you can really feel like you are removed from the hustle and bustle of life. We are glad we were able to fulfill our wish to visit the Channel Islands again, but hope this won’t be our last trip as we still have only scratched the surface.